Energy Startup Day: Collaboration in theory and practice

Stefan Kyora

13.11.2015 08:47

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At the first Energy Startup Day, about 40 start-ups met representatives of large companies, support organisations and research institutes. And the keynote speakers talked about success factors for cleantech companies.

Almost 100 people attended the first Energy Startup Day at the Umweltarena Spreitenbach, including representatives of start-up companies, energy suppliers, research institutions and support organisations. The event had a special format: the focus was on networking and what took place in the breaks or during an aperitif was an integral part of Energy Startup Day. The event began with an extensive poster session, in which the start-ups were able to present their businesses and products individually.

This was followed by the keynote speeches, in which two company founders, a scientist and the Zurich Senate candidate Bastien Girod talked about the challenges and best practices of cleantech start-ups. Here, too, the networking theme played an important role, as shown in the talk by Devon Wemyss from ZHAW, who presented the results of a study on Swiss cleantech start-ups.

She emphasised that “collaboration is essential for all cleantech start-ups in our study”, and gave three reasons:

  • Start-ups have access to a wider customer base through a trusted long-term provider
  • Start-ups can balance the capital intensity of infrastructure through shared sunk costs and innovation
  • Start-ups can build legitimacy through piloting with a validated firm

However, a collaboration with a start-up has advantages for a large company as well. It can accelerate prototyping with an external risk taker, develop innovative products or services without major organisational or structural changes, and gain access to ‘out-of-house’ skills.

Andreas Witzig, founder of the cleantech company Vela Solaris, also stressed the importance of collaboration along the value chain. He explained that Vela Solaris implemented innovations not only in the technical field, but also in the business model, which often opens up new channels that can be tackled with new partners.

The second company founder presented another aspect of the theme. Andrew Shaw, co-founder of Anerdgy, explained that elements of its product had emerged by working together with an SME. This collaboration was very open and goal-oriented, because the start-up could simply talk to the decision makers.

Bastien Girod's insights
Finally, Girod, the Green Party’s National Councillor and Senate candidate in the canton of Zurich who is also Senior Researcher in the Group for Sustainability and Technology at ETH Zürich, had some tips for the young entrepreneurs. He based his analysis on the political framework and advised start-ups not to place undue reliance on subsidies, as the latter are “highly uncertain”. In addition, he said: “There is a big cleantech wave globally, but not in Switzerland. Start-ups should look outside Switzerland.” Start-ups must look for partners not only in Switzerland, but also abroad.

The Energy Startup Day was organized by

* both are part of the SCCER CREST, Swiss Competence Center for Research in Energy, Society and Transition.

Two other article about the evenr were published by ZHAW and energeia plus, the blog of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy SFOE.

Picture: Florian Wehrli, ZHAW

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